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Bob Nielson Named Coach of the Year - Twice!

A rally will be held on Thursday, Jan. 20, at 6:30 pm in Romano Gym to celebrate Nielson and the UMD Bulldogs.

Bob Nielson
Head football coach Bob Nielson

UMD football Head Coach Bob Nielson was selected as Liberty Mutual’s NCAA Division II Coach of the Year. Nielson received a trophy on Monday, Jan. 10, at the award ceremony in Phoenix, Arizona. Nielson was also named Division II Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) at their convention in Dallas, Texas on Tuesday, Jan. 11.

With the Liberty Mutual honor comes $50,000 to be dispersed among Duluth area charities designated by Coach Nielson. His five charities are Boys and Girls Club of the Northland, Mentor Duluth, Northern Lights Foundation, Udac (STEPS Program), and Peace in Christ United Church in Hermantown, Minn. to assist with construction of a new youth activity center.

In addition, Liberty Mutual will donate $20,000 to the UMD Alumni Association. The Association has earmarked a majority of the funds to be used to endow the UMD Alumni Scholarship. This scholarship offers financial aid and networking opportunities to children and grandchildren of UMD alumni.

The Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award is the leading college football honor recognizing coaches for their sportsmanship, integrity, responsibility and excellence, on and off field. Nielson rose above a group of five Division II coach finalists through fan votes cast Dec. 13-28 at and ballots from elite selection committees of national media and College Football Hall of Fame players and coaches. Fans votes contributed 20 percent to each coach’s final score, and the media and College Football Hall of Fame accounted for 25 percent and 55 percent, respectively.

The AFCA winners are selected by a vote of active AFCA members (coaches at four-year schools) in their division. The AFCA has named a coach of the year since 1935. The AFCA Coach of the Year award is the oldest and most prestigious of all the Coach of the Year awards and is the only one chosen exclusively by the coaches themselves.

“These awards are testaments to Bob’s commitment as a coach and as a teacher. They are both wonderful distinctions and richly deserved,” said Chancellor Lendley C. Black.

This past fall, the 51-year old Nielson directed the Bulldogs to their second NCAA Division II championship in three years, defeating Delta State University 20-17 on a last-second field goal in the title game to cap off a perfect 15-0 season. In his eight years at UMD, Nielson has won four Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference titles (including the last three in a row with identical 10-0 marks) and earned four NCAA II playoff berths while amassing a 79-21 record, the best in the school’s storied 78-year football history. Along the way, he has produced 14 All-Americans along with a pair of Harlon Hill Award finalists and has helped nurture classroom champions as well (nine Bulldogs received 2010 NSIC All-Academic Team status, including senior running back Isaac Odim, who was chosen as one of 16 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award recipients as well as the 2010 ESPN Academic All-America of the Year for football).

Nielson, who has also served as UMD’s director of intercollegiate athletics since 2004, is known throughout the Duluth area for his civic and philanthropic endeavors. This year, he was the honorary chairman of the Udac “Walk a Mile in Our Shoes” campaign, helping to provide fitness services for individuals with severe physical, mental or developmental disabilities. He also organizes and leads a Junior Football League clinic, and he and his players and staff participate in an annual fishing tournament to raise money for ALS research.

Edited by Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann,


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